UBS Christens London Site Quietly

UBS, 5 Broadgate, George Osborne, Ken Shuttleworth, Make Architects

UBS at 5 Broadgate (Photo: Matthew Bugg of Make Architects)

UBS opened a 12-story «groundscraper» to house its 5,300 London staff. Former chancellor George Osborne was on hand at the building’s opening, a more low-key affair than the 2012 ground-breaking ceremony.

The Swiss bank has finally unified staff from all its arms – private banking, investment banking, asset management, and corporate center – in one building at 5 Broadgate.

A stone’s throw from Liverpool’s high-speed Crossrail and Tube links, the building is in the heart of London. It was intended to be an avowal to the City, where UBS has been present since 1898.

Rivals like Credit Suisse and Barclays have exiled themselves to Canary Wharf, the soulless investment banking hub downriver from the City.

«Gods of Finance»

5 Broadgate is described by its architect, Ken Shuttleworth, who also designed London's «Gherkin», as the «perfectly-cast engine of finance». The building (pictured below from the interior; photo courtesy of Matthew Bugg of Make Architects) was designed to be eco-friendly: its carbon emissions will be 65 percent lower than the site's two previous buildings, his firm claims.

The development was controversial from the start, and upon completion was considered for the Carbuncle Cup, an annual competition for worst urban architecture.

The Victorian Society called it an «exercise in power» and «parasitic on more humanely designed areas around it» now banished. «When planners genuflect before the gods of finance, we should all fear for the future,» the group wrote.

5 Broadgate interior 500

5 Broadgate will house four enormous trading floors, though the question of whether UBS still needs that trading capacity following a 2011 decision to ramp down its fixed-income operations remains.

Austere Opening

Four months after Britain voted to expel itself from the European Union, banks including UBS are forced to rethink their commitment to London if it can no longer grant them an EU market «passport». UBS is considering shifting as many as 1,500 jobs out of London following the vote.

And so UBS’ Broadgate opening was an far more austere affair, with only staff and those closely involved with the project invited. George Osborne, who had been pictured in the cab of a construction bulldozer breaking ground on the development in 2012, spoke briefly.

No further ceremonies are planned to inaugurate 5 Broadgate, a spokesman for the bank said. Remaining staff are scheduled to move into offices at Broadgate in coming weeks.

Uncertain London Future

Broadgate’s redevelopment had faced numerous obstacles before then, which Osborne alluded to in his remarks four years ago. «We can send an important message to the world – that Britain is open for business and is unashamedly pro enterprise.»

Four years later, Osborne is a mere member of parliament, with no place for him in Theresa May’s post-Brexit government.

George Osborne 500

Osborne tweeted from the UBS opening that «we must work hard to keep UK the global centre of finance». It is anything but clear whether that will happen.

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